In a ruling that doesn’t bode well for LGBTQ teachers and guidance counselors who are currently being fired en masse by the Catholic church, the Supreme Court has ruled that teachers at religious schools do not have civil rights employment protections.
In one case, a teacher sued alleging age discrimination. The other teacher was fired after telling administrators she had breast cancer.
In a separate ruling issued last month, the court decided that states cannot withhold funding from religious schools that discriminate against teachers and students.
The two cases decided today, Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru and St. James School v. Darryl Biel, involved teachers who gave religious instruction who were fired under the “ministerial exception,” which exempts clergy from anti-discrimination laws.
The teachers’ former employers argued that the ministerial exception means that they could not be sued for discrimination because the teachers acted like ministers.
The ruling was 7-2 with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissenting.
“The religious education and formation of students is the very reason for the existence of most private religious schools, and therefore the selection and supervision of the teachers upon whom the schools rely to do this work lie at the core of their mission,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the court.
“Judicial review of the way in which religious schools discharge those responsibilities would undermine the independence of religious institutions in a way that the First Amendment does not tolerate,” he wrote.
In many of the cases involving fired LGBTQ school employees, however, the teachers and guidance counselors gave no religious instruction. They taught secular subjects.